On May 19th and 20th, 2013, 9 tornadoes hit Oklahoma City and the surrounding areas. One of these, approximately 2 miles wide and gusting at 210 mph, cut directly through the town of Moore, OK. Initial estimates indicated at least 8,000 structures had been damaged or destroyed, 25 people lost their lives, and 377 more were injured as a result of the tornadoes. There was an extensive need for emergency provisions, as well as response and recovery services. Team Rubicon activated its national membership to respond, initiating Operation: Starting Gun.
Over the course of the next month and a half, Team Rubicon worked to coordinate volunteers in the field to complete a variety of tasks. Due to the magnitude of the destruction, the majority of their initial work involved clearing the remains of houses from their foundations. However, teams also assisted in clearing debris from residents’ yards and searching for missing valuables alongside homeowners. The teams were tasked with assessing damage, repairing homes and, for the first time in the organization’s history, demolishing structures.
Meanwhile, Disaster Tech Lab assembled rotating teams of IT and telecommunications engineers who carried out damage assessments, signal and service surveys, and established internet access and IP-based communication services for other responding organizations, disaster response centers, and the local population. The teams used a mix of Wi-Fi networks, VSAT capabilities, and solar power to build ad-hoc resilient networks. The teams equipped two Team Rubicon command centers with internet access, as well as setting up two internet cafes for residents and relief workers.
Thanks to the collaborative generosity of Airlink’s airline partners — Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and Southwest Airlines — Team Rubicon and Disaster Tech Lab deployed over 200 volunteers. This resulted in approximately 14,000 volunteer hours.